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Motoring Memories at Old Classic Car."Uncle Joe", a name used to protect the innocent (and not-so-innocent,) has kindly volunteered his own motorcar and motorcycle memories. A series of stories will be featured here at oldclassiccar, all of which are true, based on the vehicles that Joe has owned, or worked on, over the years.
If you have similar stories that you'd be willing to share with the world, I'd be happy to feature them here too, using an alias if you'd prefer!!
I've always enjoyed reading people's firsthand recollections of cars, and their foibles, in years gone by. Stories similar to this can be found on the main Motoring Memories Project page, which can be found here.
No-one at oldclassiccar necessarily agrees with, or condones, the events in these stories, and opinions given are not those of the site editor, but of the contributor!
Early days with motorcycles Part 1.(click here for Part 2).
In the street that I grew up, we used to be a group of 7 boys, with an age difference of 7 years or so. I was the youngest, and to me, the others all seemed a lot older and wiser than I was. In a way, this large age difference made the group unusual. One didn´t really mix with other children that were more than a year younger or older. As the youngest, I had just started at “The Big School,” whilst the eldest of us had already started work. He had already bought a motorbike, a second-hand 250cc BSA C11G, and the others had bought “Field Bikes” which the used to ride on a nearby farm. Initially, I wasn´t really interested in motorbikes, and didn´t go up to the farm. But then I got my first pillion ride, and that was the start!
When the Easter Holidays started, I went up to the farm with the others, and got regular pillion rides. Soon, I got bored with this, and started pestering the living daylights out of them to ride myself. They soon gave in! A deal was struck. I had to do a few things. Share the maintenance. Share the running costs. Add a bike of my own to the collection. And finally, successfully complete a test ride. The first one was easy, as the others would help me with that one. The second, well, I had my Pocket Money. The third was more difficult, but my brother promised to fix that for me. Only the test ride was left. I was led to my steed, and given my instructions. I had to start it, take it of its stand, drive round the field using the gears, come back, stop the engine, and put it on its stand again. But if I stalled the engine or crashed, there was to be no more pestering. The only trouble with this was that the bike was an ancient rigid framed 350cc Royal Enfield. To my eyes this was a huge great monster. It was also considered to be the most dangerous bike in the fleet, as only a few days earlier, it had thrown one of us off. This had caused the rider to crack his skull when he landed on what was probably the only brick in the next field. He considered himself to be very lucky however, as he was only wearing a tee shirt and jeans, and had completely missed the barbed wire fence that was between the two fields!
I dont remember much about the ride, other than successfully completing it, and arriving back absolutely covered in sweat. Nerves I suppose. What I do remember, however, was the look of dismay on their faces, as they now realised that they had to keep up their end of the bargain, by having to share their bikes with an 11 year old. My brother kept his end of the bargain also. The very next day, he turned up with my motorcycle, for which he had paid a whopping 7s 6d! That´s 37½p in foreign! This was an old Brockhouse Corgi, the bike that was made for World War Two paratroopers. In spite of the fact that its size was initially derided, we all spent many happy hours riding this around the farm. But how its 98cc two stroke engine survived, I´ll never know!
Now, many years later, I still ride motorcycles. In fact, I have never been without one since that first Corgi. But, in spite of it being the humblest, it is still the one that I remember as being the best!
First Road Bike
By the time that I had reached the age of about 15, I had become known amongst some of my schoolmates as a bit strange. The kid who preferred tinkering with old motorcycles, instead of playing football. On my side, I could never understand why 22 people wanted to kick a dead pig around! Others however became a little bit in awe. They knew that my Maths was very strong, and someone good at Maths was someone to be friends with. Part of the reason that I was good at Maths was due to the fact that by this time I had been reading Engineering books for years, but also because when I had passed my 11 Plus, my Grandmother wanted to buy me a book. I think that she had expected me to ask for something by an author like Enid Blyton. But what did I ask for? Tuning for Speed, by Phil Irving! And when I read that book, I started to do things like working out the average pressure during a four stroke engines working cycle!
Others had discovered that I knew my way around cars and motorbikes. And when they broke, I could fix them. As my 16th birthday approached, I decided that it was time to get a motorcycle ready for my debut on the roads. Anyway, I had a bit of spare time, as the 1937 Austin I had restored for my brother was now completed! I hadn´t really much idea as to what I was going to get, but it had to be fast! This problem was solved when our Window Cleaner told me that I could have an Ariel Arrow that he had. For free! It had a log book, but no engine. Never to look a gift horse in the mouth, the same evening, the Ariel was loaded onto the Austins open bootlid, and brought the 5 or so miles home. At that time, the Japanese invasion had not really started, and if you wanted a fast bike, and had a full licence, it was a Triumph, BSA, or Norton that you went for. But with L-plates, there was only one: the Ariel Arrow! And I now had one! Of course, it was rough round the edges. Of course it had no motor. But it was mine!
Of course, I needed a way to finance the build. A Paper Round, which was a common thing back then, didn´t pay enough, so I had to find something else. The father of a friend had a small business in Bolton that made custom window frames and doors. As he needed part-time help, Saturday mornings and holidays soon found me in his workshop, cutting joints, and helping to assemble these items. When my wife and I bought our first house, many years later, this was a skill that was put to very good use!
Obviously, the first thing that I needed was an engine. This was soon found for me by my brother, and cost me the princely sum of £3. Sometimes, I think he must have been the Forager King. Whenever I told him that I needed some part or other, it always turned up within a couple of days! To make things better, at a good price too! No wonder we have always had a good relationship!
As the engine was already stripped, it seemed to me to be a good idea to recondition it, and tune it a little. I had an old “Motorcycle Mechanics” magazine, in which there was the perfect article. Tuning your Ariel Arrow! At this time, we had gained access to a fully equipped workshop, and my brother made up the few special parts that were needed, to my drawings. We borrowed an engineering tool catalogue from somewhere, and from this I chose some Riffler Files that were needed to port the cylinders. Armed with the numbers, my mother went to a local tool supplier, and got them for me. When they were open, I was at school. I wonder what they thought, when she walked in, shopping basket in hand!
I only deviated from the article in one respect. This was when I read an interview with Walter Kaaden, the engineer with MZ motorcycles. This piece even included an exploded view of their 125cc engine. At that time, MZ made some very good two-stroke racing motorcycles, so advanced in fact, that when I got the chance to look at some Suzuki RG500 racer cylinders around 1980, it was just like looking at 4 MZ cylinders from 20 years earlier! It wasn´t surprising that this man became known as “the Father of the modern Two-stroke.” The now tuned and re-assembled engine looked very nice. The crankcases had been painted gold, so that they looked like they were made of Elektron (Magnesium Alloy) and the cylinders and heads matt black. The exhausts, now home made expansion chambers were also matt black.
Most excess weight had been removed from the cycle parts, and I had given it a respray in Sherwood Green, with the tank and various other parts done in silver. This was to mimic the old Beart Norton racers. It looked a bit strange, but at least I liked it, and that was the important thing!
With everything completed, the worst part of the build now began. The wait until my 16th birthday. This wait seemed to take forever. The first part wasn´t so bad, with most of my time being taken up revising, and later taking my GCE´s, but then came end of term, and the Summer Holidays.
Continued in Part 2 of this motorcycling story...
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